Sunday 23rd of January 2022

the magic rubadub...

Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration


The protests rocking the Arab world this week have one thread uniting them: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel whose aggressive coverage has helped propel insurgent emotions from one capital to the next.

Al Jazeera has been widely hailed for helping enable the revolt in Tunisia with its galvanizing early reports, even as Western-aligned political factions in Lebanon and the West Bank attacked and burned the channel’s offices and vans this week, accusing it of incitement against them.

In many ways, it is Al Jazeera’s moment — not only because of the role it has played, but also because the channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago. That narrative has long been implicit in the channel’s heavy emphasis on Arab suffering and political crisis, its screaming-match talk shows, even its sensational news banners and swelling orchestral accompaniments.

“The notion that there is a common struggle across the Arab world is something Al Jazeera helped create,” said Marc Lynch, a professor of Middle East Studies at George Washington University who has written extensively on the Arab news media. “They did not cause these events, but it’s almost impossible to imagine all this happening without Al Jazeera.”

Yet Al Jazeera’s opaque loyalties and motives are as closely scrutinized as its reporting. It is accused of tailoring its coverage to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza against their Lebanese and Palestinian rivals. Its reporter in Tunisia became a leading partisan in the uprising there. And critics speculate that the network bowed to the diplomatic interests of the Qatari emir, its patron, by initially playing down the protests in Egypt.

Not since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when American officials accused it of sympathy for Saddam Hussein and the insurgency that arose after his downfall, has Al Jazeera been such a lightning rod. This time, its antagonists as well as its supporters are spread all over the Arab world.

This week, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, accused Al Jazeera of distorting his positions, inciting violence and trying to destroy him politically. The station had broadcast a special report based on leaked documents that appeared to show Mr. Abbas and his allies offering Israel far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. The reporting set off angry demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and in response, Abbas loyalists attacked Al Jazeera’s office in Ramallah.

In Lebanon, Sunni supporters of the ousted prime minister, Saad Hariri, set fire to an Al Jazeera van and menaced a crew in the northern city of Tripoli, accusing the channel of sympathizing with their Shiite opponents.

from al jazeera

It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy.

How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly - at least once.

"The fourth issue that I will address is democracy," he declared, before explaining that while the United States won't impose its own system, it was committed to governments that "reflect the will of the people... I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

"No matter where it takes hold," the president concluded, "government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power."

Simply rhetoric?

Of course, this was just rhetoric, however lofty, reflecting a moment when no one was rebelling against the undemocratic governments of our allies - at least not openly and in a manner that demanded international media coverage.

Now it's for real.

And "democracy" is scarcely to be heard on the lips of the president or his most senior officials.

In fact, newly released WikiLeaks cables show that from the moment it assumed power, the Obama administration specifically toned down public criticism of Mubarak. The US ambassador to Egypt advised secretary of state Hillary Clinton to avoid even the mention of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, jailed and abused for years after running against Mubarak in part on America's encouragement.

Not surprisingly, when the protests began, Clinton declared that Egypt was "stable" and an important US ally, sending a strong signal that the US would not support the protesters if they tried to topple the regime. Indeed, Clinton has repeatedly described Mubarak as a family friend. Perhaps Ms Clinton should choose her friends more wisely.

revolutions on television...

Al Jazeera Covers a Revolution Despite Hurdles By ROBERT F. WORTH

WASHINGTON — As street protests raged across Egypt on Friday, with the future of the Arab world seeming to hang in the balance, rapt viewers across the region — and the globe — watched it unfold on Al Jazeera, which kept up an almost continuous live feed despite the Egyptian government’s repeated efforts to block broadcasts.

The channel was widely hailed for its early and aggressive coverage of the revolt in Tunisia, and it seemed bent on playing a similar role with the turmoil in Egypt.

The images were relentless. Thousands of people surging forward on a Cairo boulevard clouded with tear gas. Bloodied young men throwing rocks and grappling with baton-wielding riot police officers. A roaring crowd trying to push a burning police vehicle over a bridge into the Nile. Flames rising from the headquarters of Egypt’s governing party.

It was a spectacle that would have been unthinkable less than two decades ago, when Middle Eastern governments strictly censored any subversive images. Now, it seems, all revolutions are televised.

The protests were the top story on every major news outlet in the Middle East, but the day belonged to Al Jazeera. The station was the first to report that the governing party’s headquarters were set on fire. Breathless phone reports came in from Jazeera correspondents in towns across Egypt. Live footage from Cairo alternated with action shots that played again and again. Orchestral music played, conveying the sense of a long-awaited drama.

Al Jazeera kept up its coverage despite serious obstacles. The broadcaster’s separate live channel was removed from its satellite platform by the Egyptian government on Friday morning, its Cairo bureau had its telephones cut and its main news channel also faced signal interference, according to a statement released by the station. The director of the live channel issued an appeal to the Egyptian government to allow it to broadcast freely.

Other broadcasters, including CNN, said their reporters had been attacked and their cameras smashed by security forces.

Al Jazeera’s news anchors often drew attention to the limits of their reporting, noting that they did not know what was happening in some parts of the country because phone lines had been cut. At one point, a correspondent warned that Egyptian security forces were poised to attack the building where the channel’s reporters were working. Anchors told viewers to switch to another satellite channel, and told them how to do it, in case its transmission was interrupted.

Still, there was little doubt that they provided more exhaustive coverage than anyone else.


Gus: at present, the major turning point in the Arab world's population happens to be — does it still want to live in an archaic stringent narrow-minded frame of mind with some kind of hate fuelling an anger towards anything else, in a modern evolving world, or can Islam adapt to the subtleties of modern life — with freedom for its people to choose a peaceful level of "comfortable" spiritual happiness on this little earth?

For too long, stringent antiquated religious or despotic rules maintained by power (and interferences from others — zionists and zealot christians) from the top has kept some of its populations in the dark, in poverty and some kind of slavery, partaking of corruption to survive. Now, the day to day struggle starts to appear futile and the stringent sharia rules are ready to take over, to give hope in the "future". The dynamics are complex. The language of the Koran has only black and white. No soft edges... Is someone brave enough in this mess, to become a modern prophet and bring a softer understanding of freedom for all — away from the times when men ruled over women as if they were "willing" slaves...

It's up to the people in the Arab world to make the gigantic leap — a leap that was started in the Western world about 250 years ago and which most of the Western World is still trying to come to term with it — religiously. Science and "enlightenment" made us realise we live on — and are evolved, born, from — a small insignificant planet in a small corner of an unfathomable universe. Atoms and quarks are the fabric. God becomes an idea rather than a fact.

The next step is to live graciously, happily, and as painfully as possible, without destroying the planet.

By saying this, I mean that our behaviour is only relevant to ourselves and each other. Our behaviour means zip to the universe we live in...

All of us have a long way to go...

Peace and warm enlightenment — be kind to your fellow humans...

Death throes of a dictatorship...

From Robert Fisk...

The Egyptian tanks, the delirious protesters sitting atop them, the flags, the 40,000 protesters weeping and crying and cheering in Freedom Square and praying around them, the Muslim Brotherhood official sitting amid the tank passengers. Should this be compared to the liberation of Bucharest? Climbing on to an American-made battle tank myself, I could only remember those wonderful films of the liberation of Paris. A few hundred metres away, Hosni Mubarak's black-uniformed security police were still firing at demonstrators near the interior ministry. It was a wild, historical victory celebration, Mubarak's own tanks freeing his capital from his own dictatorship.

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt's chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman's appointment, they burst into laughter.

Their crews, in battledress and smiling and in some cases clapping their hands, made no attempt to wipe off the graffiti that the crowds had spray-painted on their tanks. "Mubarak Out – Get Out", and "Your regime is over, Mubarak" have now been plastered on almost every Egyptian tank on the streets of Cairo.


Death throes of a dictatorship — a dictatorship supported by the US...

widespread repression and fear...

Julian Assange awakes to talk, from the nap he has stolen in an armchair at the Norfolk country house where he is staying. He has been up all night disseminating, on his WikiLeaks site, US State Department cables and documents relevant to the momentous events unfolding in Egypt, and they make remarkable reading.

The American diplomats writing the cables leaked to Assange report many of the reasons for the Egyptian uprising: torture of political dissidents, even common criminals, to obtain confessions; widespread repression and fear; and – of special interest to anyone who follows WikiLeaks – the increasingly important role of internet activism, opposition blogging and communication with democratic movements within and without the country over the web.

As ever with the diplomatic memorandums published by WikiLeaks – an act of dissemination for which Assange has become public enemy number one in the US – the cables are, ironically, testimony to the professionalism and straight- talking of the US State Department. Assange concedes that the cables contain "a relative honesty and directness, and quite a lot of wannabe Hemingway".

the new face of restraint .....

from Crikey .....

Mubarak's new vice-president: the Habib connection .....

Crikey Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane writes:


General Omar Suleiman -- Hosni Mubarak's new vice-president and possible replacement as pressure on Mubarak to resign grows -- tortured Australian Mamdouh Habib, according to Habib's account about his experience of illegal rendition.

The Australian Government recently settled a long-running compensation case brought by Habib after his release from Guantanamo Bay in 2005. The Egyptian-born Habib had been arrested in Pakistan in the wake of 9/11 attacks. The settlement came in the wake of further evidence, revealed by The Australian, that Australian officials had been present at the interrogation of Habib in Cairo.

Habib has repeatedly claimed since his release that Australian officials, including DFAT and intelligence agency officials, were present when he was interrogated, a claim repeatedly denied by the Federal Government. At one point, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock denied having any information on Habib's whereabouts, despite extensive evidence that the Australian Government knew exactly where he was and what was being done to him.

Habib was tortured in Pakistan before being secretly moved via a CIA rendition flight to Egypt, where he spent five months. He was subsequently moved to Afghanistan and then Guantanamo Bay. Richard Neville has provided extensive details of Habib's kidnapping and torture, including his interrogation in Egypt, based on Habib's account (read Neville's full account at his website

Habib's settlement with the Federal Government included a confidentiality agreement. Neville wrote:

Habib was interrogated by the country's Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman, whose is ranked second in power to President Hosni Mubarak. Back in 2001, Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Suleiman slapped Habib's face so hard, the blindfold was dislodged, revealing the torturer's identity. According to his memoir, Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.

He was again interrogated by Omar Suleiman. To loosen Habib's tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib - and he did, with a vicious karate kick. Suleiman is expected to be the next President of Egypt.

Suleiman played a key role in the US Government's illegal rendition program. The central nature of his role in the rendition program and the "investigation" and "prosecution" of detainees sent to Egypt under the program is discussed in a Wikileaks cable from 2005:

General Soliman's stature and power in the Egyptian establishment, and his history of close cooperation with the USG on counterterrorism, corroborate the Egyptian intent take responsibility for the detainees in such a way that protects both U.S. and Egyptian security interests.

As the cable shows, Habib was only one of many men subjected to kidnapping and torture by the US Government and its allies. Worse, Habib's experience is only one of many thousands in Mubarak's Egypt, where torture has been described as "widespread and persistent" and an "epidemic".

A 2004 Human Rights Watch paper noted that torture and beatings by police had gone beyond political dissidents to anyone in police custody, including children. In July, the blatant beating to death of an anti-corruption activist by police drew widespread international attention.

Far from pressuring Egypt to end its extensive use of torture, the US and its allies like Australia appear to have been eager to exploit it.


from Chris Floyd...

1. American Imperative: Keep the Applecart Rolling
Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak has bowed to pressure and appointed a vice-president; in reality, a successor to take his place after his departure, which may come within a matter of days, if not hours.

But the pressure that led to Mubarak's decision came not from the revolution erupting in Egypt -- at least, not directly. No, it almost certainly came from his imperial patrons and paymasters in Washington. Even the third-rate poltroons on the Potomac can see that Mubarak is a now a decidedly dead duck, destined to end his days in luxurious exile in Saudi Arabia or some other friendly tyranny. So they are now scrambling to put Egypt under the control of the proverbial "safe pair of hands" -- someone whose main concern will be "continuity" in advancing the interests of the American power structure.

Why, that sounds like someone else we know -- a guy who took over from one of the most despised presidents in American history ... and promptly began replicating his most heinous policies.

In like fashion, Mubarak has now appointed his spymaster, Omar Suleiman, who has been at the center of the regime's brutal power structure for 20 years, as vice-president of the country. He has also named a retired military man, Ahmed Shafik, as prime minister. Perhaps not coincidentally, the New York Times published a revealing story on Saturday detailing the remarkably close interconnections between the American and Egyptian military-security complexes, going back several decades -- a relationship that has been worth billions of dollars to war profiteers, bagmen and baksheesh-peddlers in both countries, for generations.

read more of Chris Floyd...

oh shit .....

Tony Blair has described Hosni Mubarak, the beleaguered Egyptian leader, as "immensely courageous and a force for good" and warned against a rush to elections that could bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

The former prime minister, now an envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, praised Mubarak over his role in the negotiations and said the west was right to back him despite his authoritarian regime because he had maintained peace with Israel.

But that view is likely to anger many Egyptians who believe they have had to endure decades of dictatorship because the US put Israel's interests ahead of their freedom.

Speaking to Piers Morgan on CNN, Blair defended his backing for Mubarak.

Tony Blair: Mubarak is 'immensely courageous and a force for good'